Cape Breton Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

Cape Breton

Rating: 3.3


Out on the high "bird islands," Ciboux and Hertford,
the razorbill auks and the silly-looking puffins all stand
with their backs to the mainland
in solemn, uneven lines along the cliff's brown grass-frayed edge,
while the few sheep pastured there go "Baaa, baaa."
(Sometimes, frightened by aeroplanes, they stampede
and fall over into the sea or onto the rocks.)
The silken water is weaving and weaving,
disappearing under the mist equally in all directions,
lifted and penetrated now and then
by one shag's dripping serpent-neck,
and somewhere the mist incorporates the pulse,
rapid but unurgent, of a motor boat.

The same mist hangs in thin layers
among the valleys and gorges of the mainland
like rotting snow-ice sucked away
almost to spirit; the ghosts of glaciers drift
among those folds and folds of fir: spruce and hackmatack--
dull, dead, deep pea-cock colors,
each riser distinguished from the next
by an irregular nervous saw-tooth edge,
alike, but certain as a stereoscopic view.

The wild road clambers along the brink of the coast.
On it stand occasional small yellow bulldozers,
but without their drivers, because today is Sunday.
The little white churches have been dropped into the matted hills
like lost quartz arrowheads.
The road appears to have been abandoned.
Whatever the landscape had of meaning appears to have been abandoned,
unless the road is holding it back, in the interior,
where we cannot see,
where deep lakes are reputed to be,
and disused trails and mountains of rock
and miles of burnt forests, standing in gray scratches
like the admirable scriptures made on stones by stones--
and these regions now have little to say for themselves
except in thousands of light song-sparrow songs floating upward
freely, dispassionately, through the mist, and meshing
in brown-wet, fine torn fish-nets.

A small bus comes along, in up-and-down rushes,
packed with people, even to its step.
(On weekdays with groceries, spare automobile parts, and pump parts,
but today only two preachers extra, one carrying his frock coat on a
hanger.)
It passes the closed roadside stand, the closed schoolhouse,
where today no flag is flying
from the rough-adzed pole topped with a white china doorknob.
It stops, and a man carrying a bay gets off,
climbs over a stile, and goes down through a small steep meadow,
which establishes its poverty in a snowfall of daisies,
to his invisible house beside the water.

The birds keep on singing, a calf bawls, the bus starts.
The thin mist follows
the white mutations of its dream;
an ancient chill is rippling the dark brooks.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Primrose Tee 05 May 2014

great poem, , , nice work

0 2 Reply
* Sunprincess * 14 March 2014

It stops, and a man carrying a bay gets off, climbs over a stile, and goes down through a small steep meadow, which establishes its poverty in a snowfall of daisies, to his invisible house beside the water.

0 1 Reply
Bernard F. Asuncion 27 June 2018

Such a great write by Elizabeth Bishop??????

0 0 Reply
Castellenas John 27 June 2018

A wonderful poem. The description was amazing. Thank you.

0 0 Reply
Muzahidul Reza 27 June 2018

A well descriptive one with aloquence and pictorial expression

0 0 Reply
Mahtab Bangalee 29 November 2020

full of beautiful descriptive poem; as if I am on that landscape.......

0 1 Reply
Khairul Ahsan 29 November 2020

'Sometimes, frightened by aeroplanes, they stampede and fall over into the sea or onto the rocks' - A vivd picture of the flocks of sheep in dire fear. 'The silken water is weaving and weaving, disappearing under the mist equally in all directions' - Loved this beautiful imagery. Glad to see this poem selected as the 'Classic Poem of the Day'!

0 0 Reply
Edward Kofi Louis 29 November 2020

Things seen around Cape Breton! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

0 0 Reply
Dr Antony Theodore 29 November 2020

The birds keep on singing, a calf bawls, the bus starts. The thin mist follows the white mutations of its dream; an ancient chill is rippling the dark brooks. a very fine poem. thank you. to ny

0 0 Reply
Deluke Muwanigwa 29 November 2020

Its like i been to the scene. Lovely descriptive poem.

0 0 Reply

Elizabeth Bishop

Worcester, Massachusetts
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